‘The Rule of One’ by Ashley and Leslie Saunders

"Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), perched on verbena plant, Costa Rica, July"

“The Rule of One” by twins Ashley and Leslie Saunders is about Mira and Ava, identical twins born in a dystopian future when only one child is allowed for each family. Their mother died in childbirth at home, approved by the totalitarian government only because of the high status of their physician father.

Their parents knew that Mira and Ava’s mom was expecting twins, and when that occurred, only one child was allowed to go home with the family. During the course of the story, the reader will find out what happened to the other child. Their parents had it all planned out. There is an underground bunker where one girl always lives, while the other, either Ava or Mira pretending to be Ava, lives in the “real” bedroom and attends classes.

For 18 years they have gotten away with this deception. The girls attend their elite school on alternate days, writing in a journal and keeping meticulous details about the day to share with the other girl who will attend school the next day. Their father has prepared them for any disruption in this routine, and the most difficult part is that Ava, the “real” twin, has a microchip in her wrist that is used to identify citizens, to pay for purchases, and basically to function as a person’s identification card. If Mira is ever scanned for her microchip, their deception would immediately become known and the consequences would be deadly.

A particularly unpleasant boy at school seems to pay the girls a lot of attention. Halton is the grandson of the governor of Texas, who runs Texas with an iron fist. When Halton discovers their secret, the girls must run away and try to get to safety.

The story is told from alternative points of view by the girls, Mira and Ava. While the plot is fairly predictable, the first person narrative works well. The descriptions of the settings — especially in the national forests — work well. The action is nonstop, and the girls race to get to safety, at times with close calls. While this may not be a deep, thoughtful read, it should make young readers think just a bit more about climate change and how the future will look. Young readers will also enjoy the plot, the fast pace, and the question of how this will all turn out.

This reviewer is hoping that the next two novels answer a few questions. How did their father raise them as infants, keeping one hidden, if he had to work? Was there someone he trusted? How did he build their underground bunker and escape tunnels without outside help? Whom did he trust enough to do that work?

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Skyscape, for review purposes. 

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